Friday, 30 December 2011

Review of 2011

Phew, well that's Christmas over and done with for another year.  As with most years it flew by in a whirlwind of shopping, present wrapping, tree purchasing and, of course, cooking. Lots of cooking! Not so much blogging though unfortunately as I just haven't had the opportunity to spend any quality time with my laptop.  I plan to rectify that in the New Year, but in the meantime I thought I'd pick out a few of my favourite recipes from the past 12 months.

First up are these fabulous Blondies from Nigella's Kitchen book.  This is one of the first recipes I posted about back in January and it's become one of my favourite traybake recipes.

Next up is another Nigella recipe that I made in March - Chocolate Key Lime Pie.  This is a perfect dinner party dessert as you can make it in minutes the night before. Oh, and it tastes amazing.

This Tiramisu Trifle is a tried and tested recipe that I've used many times and, like the Chocolate Lime Pie above, it's great for gatherings.  Again, it can be made in advance and it serves 8 to 10 easily so it's great for a family barbeque or a Christmas gathering.

At last, a savoury recipe! This recipe for Tortellini with Corgette and Lemon that I posted about in May is another that I make over and over.  It's so simple to throw together and is light and (reasonably) healthy.  A great after work dinner.

These Date Bars sound rather virtuous and boring.  They're not!  A bit like flapjacks but with a gooey layer of sweet, fudgy dates in the middle, these are a very moreish treat.  I must make them again soon.

Another savoury recipe now that I made back in June.  This Lamb Byriani with Cumin, Mint and Coriander Yoghurt comes from Bill Granger's book, Every Day, a great book full of light, healthy recipes.  This was a great one-pot meal and I loved the addition of the spiced yoghurt.

I made Delia's Strawberry and Vanilla Pavlova in the summer right at the end of the strawberry season and, while I had a bit of trouble with the meringue part, in the end it turned out perfectly.  I loved the combination of fromage frais and mascarpone instead of the usual whipped cream.

Now this is recipe worth mentioning again! These amazing Peanut Butter Squares come from Nigella's book, How to be a Domestic Goddess. Salty peanut butter, chocolate and a not-inconsiderable amount of sugar and butter are combined to perfection in these delicious little squares.

I made this Rhubarb Marshmallow Meringue Roulade in October as part of a Pudding Club dinner and it was declared to be the best by almost all parties.  The clue is in the title as the meringue truly does have a wonderful marshmallowy texture and is paired perfectly with tart rhubarb and soft whipped cream. Dessert heaven.

I'll finish with two savoury dishes that I posted about in November.  The first, Nigella's Risotto Bolognese was a new discovery and definitely a keeper.  It's rich and flavourful and probably the best risotto recipe I've come across.

Last but definitely not least is this Sausage Pasta Bake recipe.  I came across this years ago in a food magazine and have made it countless times since then.  It's undoubtably my favourite pasta bake by a long way.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2012.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Hotel Chocolat Competition....a new winner!

As I have had a response from the previous winner I have had to rerun the draw.  As as result I can announce that the new winner is...


Please email me your address and I'll arrange for your prize to be delivered as soon as possible.

Thanks again to Hotel Chocolat for giving me the opportunity to run this great competition.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Banana & Chocolate Cookies

If I ever write a recipe book I think I'll call it "Recipes to Make Your Home Smell Fabulous" and I've already got the first recipe right here.

The recipe in question comes from Hungry?, a book I reviewed earlier in the year and I'm still using on a regular basis.  I've been wanting to try these for ages but, until this week, never quite managed to have all of the ingredients in the house at the same time.  They were definitely worth the wait though.

They're quite unusual, being wheat and egg free, and have a more cake-like texture than normal cookies but don't be put off as they taste great, especially when they're still warm from the oven.  Plus, as I mentioned above, while they're baking your kitchen will filled with the deliciously comforting aroma of banana and coconut.

Banana & Chocolate Cookies
(adapted from Hungry? from the Innocent Drinks people)

3 ripe bananas
100g/4oz butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 large handfuls porridge oats
100g/4oz ground almonds
100g/4oz unsweetened desiccated coconut
a handful of raisins or chopped dried apricots
a pinch of ground cinnamon
100g/4oz milk or plain chocolate, chopped into small bits (or just use a bag of chocolate drops)

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.  Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper (you may need two).

2) In a big mixing bowl, mash up the bananas with a fork then add the melted butter and vanilla and give it a good stir.

3) Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the chocolate, and mix well. Fold in the chocolate pieces.  It probably won't look quite as firm as normal cookie dough but don't worry.

4) Spoon the mix onto the baking sheets, using about 2 teaspoons per cookie.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden. (The original recipe suggests leaving space for them to expand but mine didn't grow that much).

5) Leave to cook on a wire rack for a few minutes.  They're best eaten while still warm but will also keep just fine in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes about 25

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hotel Chocolat Giveaway.....And the winner is......

Thanks to everyone who entered the Hotel Chocolat giveaway.  I can now announce that the winner of the Hotel Chocolat Classic Christmas Selection Box is....

Beth S Paton


Please email me your address and I'll arrange for your prize to be delivered as soon as possible.

Thanks again to Hotel Chocolat for giving me the opportunity to run this great competition.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

We Should Cocoa - Chocolate & Caramelised Apple Cake

It's been a while since I entered the We Should Cocoa monthly challenge, where bloggers make and share recipes that include chocolate and another ingredient suggested the challenge host for that month.  I was determined to join in again this month but when I saw the theme I wasn't convinced I was going find a recipe to fit the bill.

This time the challenge is being hosted by Chele from the Chocolate Teapot blog and her chosen theme is apples, which is not something you automatically think to pair with chocolate.  Pears, yes, but apples? After a bit of searching I found a few apple recipes you could add chocolate to but what I really wanted was the reverse - a chocolate recipe you could add apples to.  In the end I settled on the idea for a really good chocolate apple cake and at about the same time it also occurred to me that I had the perfect cake tin for the job.  Well, "tin" isn't quite the correct word as this is one of those flexible rubber cake moulds that I bought on a whim several years ago.  I have used it a grand total of zero times since I decided I just had to have it and in the intervening years it's mostly been gathering dust in my cupboard and occasionally falling out on to my head.

As you can see, though, it's the perfect shape for this recipe and I loved the way the cake looked when it was turned out.

The cake recipe is more brownie-based than a standard sponge as it contains melted chocolate and cocoa powder which gives it a good chocolatey flavour and a wonderful, slightly gooey texture in the middle.  The apple complemented the chocolate perfectly and all-in-all it was very well received by my most discerning critics (ie my family).  I definitely be making this one again.

Chocolate & Caramelised Apple Cake

2 bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into approx 24 slices
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g sugar

For the cake
4oz/115g butter
1 1/4 oz/40g dark chocolate, broken up
3/4 oz/20g cocoa powder
2 eggs, separated
4oz/115g caster sugar
3oz/75g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.  Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

2) Melt the 1oz of butter in a frying pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to bubble then add the apple slices and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden.  Increase the heat and sprinkle over the sugar and 1 tablespoon of water.  When the sauce begins to turn golden, stir the apples in the pan until they are coated in the caramel.

3) Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, then add the cocoa and chocolate and stir until melted.  Remove from the heat.

4) Whisk the egg yolks until they are foamy then beat in the sugar.  Add the chocolate mixture, slowly at first, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well.  Add the milk and mix until smooth.

5) Whisk the egg whites in a separate, clean, dry bowl until stiff then carefully fold into the cake mix, being careful not to knock the air out.

6) Line the bottom of the cake tin with the sliced apples (you may not need all the slices) and any remaining caramel, then carefully pour the cake mix over the top and smooth the surface.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  At the end of this time the middle of the cake will still be unnervingly undercooked but try not to worry, this will set into a gooey fudginess in due course.  Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before carefully turning out.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hotel Chocolat Classic Christmas Selection Review & Giveaway

Despite the uncharacteristically mild weather there's no escaping the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. The shops are putting up their decorations, supermarkets are stocking up with Christmas goodies and sentimental adverts are appearing on the television (John Lewis will be receiving my bill for tissues shortly). I know some complain that the Christmas Season begins too early in this country but I say bring it on!

It's great to have a reason to brighten up the darkening days and last week a little sparkly ray of sunshine arrived on my doorstep in the form of a package from Hotel Chocolat. It's no secret that I'm a fan of their chocolates so I was delighted when they offered me the chance to review one of their Christmas Chocolate Boxes.

The package in question contained their Sleekster Classic Christmas Selection Box, a Christmassy version of their fabulous selection boxes containing 28 chocolates, including pralines, caramels and truffles, all spiced and flavoured with seasonal delights such as mulled wine, gingerbread, cinnamon and even chilli, to name just a few.

I couldn't possibly pick a favourite, but some of the highlights for me were the gorgeous, comforting flavours in the gingerbread truffle, the light and fruity Christmas Mess and the very festive Zesty Marzipan Star. All were delicious though and there's no doubt that one of these boxes would be very gratefully received by any chocolate lover this Christmas.

This box retails at £22.00, or you can currently buy 3 for £20, and can be found online or at one of Hotel Chocolat's many high street stores.

And now for the really good news. I'm delighted to be able to offer my readers the chance to win one of these fab boxes of delight just in time for Christmas. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is have a look at Hotel Chocolat's Christmas Gifts Collection and then leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page, telling me which one of the goodies on offer you would like to receive this Christmas. For an extra entry, you can also post the following message on Twitter

I've entered the @HalfaPotofCream competition to win a box of @HotelChocolat Classic Christmas Selection chocolates

The competition ends at midnight on Sunday 27th November and I'll announce the winner a couple of days later. Only UK entries allowed I'm afraid. Good luck!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Sausage Pasta Bake

I've been meaning to write about this recipe for positively ages as it's my most favourite pasta bake but until this weekend I haven't been able to get a picture of it. This time, though, I was determined to get a couple of snaps before it was all devoured and, as you can see, I succeeded.

I've always loved sausagey pasta sauces and this one works particularly well with the addition of a layer of cheesy white sauce. The sauce itself has bags of flavour thanks to the addition of red wine and tomato puree, and the inclusion of carrot and spinach make for a pretty well balanced meal.

This isn't a one-pot meal by any means as there are a number of steps involved but it's perfectly fine to prepare it a few hours in advance and leave it covered up until you're ready to put it in the oven. The sausage sauce could also be made in advance and either frozen or kept in the fridge for a couple of days.

I found this recipe in the BBC Good Food Magazine many years ago and have made it over and over since then. The perfect Sunday night dinner!

Sausage Pasta Bake
(taken from BBC Good Food Magazine long ago)

For the sausage sauce
400g good quality pork sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
150ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp tomato puree

For the white sauce
50g butter
50g plain flour
600ml milk
freshly grated nutmeg

500g rigatoni or penne
200g fresh spinach
140g mature cheddar, grated

1) Slit the sausages and remove them from their skins, then chop them into small pieces. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the sausages and fry until lightly coloured. Add the carrot, then stir in the wine, stock, tomato puree and season. Bring the sauce to the boil, the simmer uncovered, for about 15 minutes until thickened. Taste and season then set aside.

2) To make the white sauce put the butter, flour and milk in a pan. Gently heat, whisking, until thickened and smooth. Add a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg, season, then simmer for 2 minutes.

3) Preheat the oven to 190c/gas 5/fan 170c. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, stir well then cook until tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach and, when just wilted, drain well.

4) Tip half the pasta into a shallow ovenproof dish, about 2.2 litres/4 pints, and level. Spoon over the sausage sauce, then cover with the remaining pasta. Pour the white sauce evenly over the top and sprinkle with cheddar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Leave for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Friday, 11 November 2011

Moroccan Fish Stew

With the season of indulgence advancing steadily towards us, here's a gratifyingly healthy recipe that will help to balance things out a bit. This is another recipe from Bill Grainger's book, Every Day, and like many of the recipes in this book it was very light and fresh with lovely gentle flavours. Plus, as the main ingredients are fish and couscous you can have it on the table in under 30 minutes.

Moroccan Fish Stew
(adapted from Every Day by Bill Grainger)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
pinch cayenne pepper
400g tin chopped tomatoes
pinch of sea salt
500g/1 lb 2oz firm white fish fillets (such as cod, snapper or ling), cut into chunks
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed
2 teaspoons honey
freshly ground black pepper

To serve
fresh coriander leaves
flaked almonds, lightly toasted

1) Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

2) Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more, or until fragrant.

3) Add the cayenne, tomatoes, salt and 250ml/9 fl oz/1 cup of water and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the fish and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the fish is just tender.

4) Add the chickpeas and honey and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Season to taste. Serve garnished with coriander and flaked almonds.

Serves 4

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rocky Road Crunch Bars

One of the things that pains me the most about the rise in food prices in recent years is the dramatic increase in the price of chocolate. Dark chocolate appears in so many of my favourite recipes but where a couple of years ago 100g of decent 70% dark chocolate cost about a pound, these days you'll easily pay about 50% more than that and even more if you want organic.

So, when I use it I want to really make it count and this is a recipe that really makes you feel like you've got your money's worth. If you search for Rocky Road online you'll find a variety of different recipes and ultimately you can add pretty much anything you like - digestive biscuits, ginger biscuits, marshmallows and any sort of dried fruit that takes your fancy.

This time I've used Nigella's recipe from her book, Nigella Express, which is one my favourite of her books and contains lots of quick and easy recipes that I've used time and time again.

This is one of the simplest recipes for Rocky Road as it just contains crushed Rich Tea biscuits and marshmallows. Next time I might try adding a handful of raisins to the mix aswell. As this only uses dark chocolate it might not appeal to some children (mine weren't overly keen) so if you want to make a more family friendly version you might want to replace some or all of the dark chocolate with milk. Most adults, though, will love the dark, rich combination of crunchy biscuit and squishy marshmallow. I certainly do and I'm just wondering if I can justify having another piece already.

On a final note, the tin I used was a bit bigger than the one specified so I struggled to cover the whole of the top with the reserved chocolate. When I make it again I think I'll size down, tin-wise, rather than up.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Risotto Bolognese

When you think of flavours to add to a risotto, bolognese is not something that immediately comes to mind. However, when I saw that this recipe had been highly recommended on another food blog (Cooking the Books with Kelly Jane) and thought I'd give it a try.

The recipe comes from Nigella's recent book, Kitchen, and while making it I have to confess that I wasn't convinced it was going to work - sorry Nigella! The combination of the meat sauce and the stock seemed to me to be way too much liquid and I was worried it wouldn't all be absorbed by the time the rice had cooked. But I was wrong of course and it turned out just fine with the amount of liquid being exactly what I needed to cook the rice to perfection.

It is a fairly long-winded recipe so it's best saved for a Sunday afternoon or a day when you have lots of time on your hands. Having said that, though, you can prepare the meat sauce in advance and either keep it in the fridge for a day or two or freeze it. I froze half the meat sauce and used the rest to make a half portion of the risotto. This fed two adults and two children with a little bit left over for my lunch the next day.

This is a really delicious recipe which is just full of flavour and definitely worth the extra effort required to make it. 5 stars from me!

Risotto Bolognese
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and halved
1 stick celery, halved
1 small glove of garlic, peeled
handful fresh parsley
75g rindless streaky bacon
4 anchovy fillets (optional)
50g unsalted butter plus 1 x 15ml tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon regular olive oil
250g minced beef, preferably organic
80ml marsala
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 15ml tablespoon tomato puree
2 x 15ml tablespoons full-fat milk
2 litres veal stock (500ml plus 1.5 litres), preferably organic (I used beef stock)
2 bay leaves
500g risotto rice
6 x 15ml tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 150c/gas mark 2. Put the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, bacon and anchovy into a processor and blend to a fine mush.

2) Heat the 50g butter and 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in a deep heavy ovenproof casserole with a lid (I don't have one of these so used a large frying pan then transferred everything to a regular, lidded casserole dish). Tip in the contents of the processor and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.

3) Add the meat and let it brown a little, breaking it up in the pan, then add the marsala. Process the tomatoes until smooth and add to the meat. Stir the tomato puree into the milk then add this mixture to the pan, along with the 500ml veal stock and the bay leaves.

4) Bring to the boil on the hob then put on the lid (or transfer to your dish of choice) and put in the oven for 1 hour. After this time, remove it from the oven and take out the bay leaves.

5) Heat the remaining 1.5 litres of stock in a saucepan and keep it warm over a low heat, then put the meat sauce on a low heat next to it.

6) Stir the rice into the meat sauce and then add a ladleful of the hot stock. Stir until the rice and sauce become thick again and then add another ladleful of stock.

7) Continue to add the stock as needed, a ladleful at a time, stirring all the time as you go. Check to see if the rice is cooked after about 18 minutes - you may not need to use all the stock.

8) When it's ready, turn off the heat and stir or beat in the cheese and the extra tablespoon of butter before before seasoning to taste. Serve in warmed, shallow bowls with extra Parmesan on the side.

Serves 6-8

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Secluded (French Fancy!) Tea Party

You might remember my post a few months ago about The Secluded Tea Party and the literary-themed event I attended. Well, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a second event hosted by Miss Sue Flay in a secret Cambridgeshire location. This time the tea party had a French theme and Miss Sue was joined by the lovely Cat from Cakes by Cat who gave us a masterclass in the art of decorating French Fancies.

When we arrived at the venue we were ushered in the bunting bedecked room with a large table in the centre of the room adorned with a pretty checked tablecloth and covered with an assortment of mouth-watering goodies. While we introduced ourselves to each other we enjoyed some sparkling elderflower cordial served in a variety of pretty vintage teacups.

Our first task of the evening was to prepare our flower decorations to add to our cakes later on. These were surprisingly simple to make but very effective as you can see in the pictures of the finished cakes.

Then it was on to the rather messy job of icing our cakes. Cat had provided three different cakes layered with buttercream in a variety of flavours, topped with marzipan and ready for us to cut into squares or circles. Once our cakes had been cut to size we then dipped them into bowls of pastel icing ready for the final decorations.

In between these activities we were also busy tucking into the various delights supplied by Miss Sue Flay. These included cucumber and egg mayonnaise open sandwiches, lemon madeleines with rose petal jam and luscious profiteroles filled with creme patisserie.

And of course a Secluded Tea Party wouldn't be complete without one of Miss Sue's fabulous layer cakes - in this case a Black Forest Gateaux-inspired cake stuffed with buttercream and cherry jam - delicious!

The final part of our decorating class involved icing and decorating our cakes. Cat showed us how to create little icing bags out of baking paper - a trick that required quite a lot of dexterity! These were then used to pipe lines and swirls on top of our cakes before we topped them off with our fondant flowers. When all the cakes were finished and placed in cake cases and boxes the effect was very impressive and I think we all felt rather pleased with ourselves!

Thanks again to Miss Sue Flay and to Cat for hosting such a lovely evening. If you would like to find out about upcoming Secluded Tea Parties then be sure to have a look at Miss Sue's website here and you can read her write up of the evening and see some more pictures here. Cat also runs regular cake decorating classes - have a look at her Facebook page here for more information.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

East Anglian Food Events - November 2011 to January 2012

Here's my second monthly roundup of upcoming foodie events in East Anglia (those that I know of anyway). There are a few exciting things coming up as we head towards the festive season - I'm particularly looking forward to La Hogue Farm's Christmas Tasting Extravaganza next week and I will shortly be booking my place at The Secluded Tea Party's blogfest.

If anyone has anything they'd like me to include then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email.


Farmers Markets
5th - Snape Maltings, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
5th - Jimmy's Farm, East Suffolk - 10am to 2pm
12th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
12th & 26th - Woodbridge Farmers Market -East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
19th - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
26th - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 carpark charge redeemable against purchases)
Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
19th - The Secluded Tea Party - Blogfest - Cambridgeshire - 10am to 2pm
26th - Cambridge Cake Crawl - 2pm to 5pm
23rd - 27th BBC Good Food Show, Birmingham NEC
25th - 27th - Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre - 10am to 7pm (5pm on Sunday)
27th - Top Secret Tea Parties - Chocolate Themed Tea Party - Peterborough - 2pm to 4pm


Farmers Markets
3rd - Snape Maltings. East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
3rd & 4th - Jimmy's Farm Christmas Fayre, East Suffolk - 10am to 2pm
10th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
10th & 17th - Woodbridge Farmers Market - East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
17th - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
17th - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 car park charge redeemable against purchases)
23rd - Snape Malting Christmas Market, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 1pm
Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
2nd - Top Secret Tea Parties - Gingerbread, Gingham & Gifts Soiree - Peterborough - 7pm to 9pm
11th - The Secluded Tea Party, Grinch-inspired Xmas Tea Party - Cambridgeshire - 2pm to 4pm


Farmers Markets
14th - Rickinghall Farmers Market, Mid Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
14th & 28th - Woodbridge Farmers Market - East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm
21st - Aldeburgh Farmers Market, Village Hall, East Suffolk - 9.30am to 12.30pm
21st - Easton Farm Park, East Suffolk - 9am to 1pm (£5 car park charge redeemable against purchases)
Every Saturday - Wyken Vineyards, West Suffolk - 9am to 1pm

Other Events
7th - The Secluded Tea Party - Murder Mystery Tea Party - 7pm - 11pm

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pudding Club Part 3 - Rhubarb Marshmallow Meringue Roulade

So here's the final installment in the Pudding Club series and I can now reveal that the dessert that I've placed at the top of the pile is the simply fabulous Rhubarb Marshmallow Meringue Roulade. This recipe comes from Jo Pratt's book, In the Mood for Entertaining: Food for Every Occasion and was just as delicious as it sounds. The meringue was perfectly soft and marshmallowy, just as the title suggests, with just a whiff of crunch on the outside and the rhubarb and cream filling was heavenly. To top it all off, this was probably the easiest of the puddings to make. The meringue and the rhubarb can be prepared several hours in advance so all you need to do at the last minute is whip up the cream, fold in the rhubarb and assemble the roulade. I was a bit concerned that the meringue might be tricky to roll up but it was breeze.

This is a pudding to be eaten as soon as it's assembled if possible and it makes just about the right amount for six people (assuming you're not expecting them to get through three more puddings afterwards!). The leftovers the next day were more than edible but I wouldn't have wanted to keep it any longer than that.

All in all, this pudding was voted a winner by most of the people who tried it and there's no doubt I'll be making it again.

Rhubarb Marshmallow Meringue Roulade
(adapted from In the Mood for Entertaining by Jo Pratt)

for the meringue
4 large egg whites
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sifted icing sugar, for dusting

for the filling
400g trimmed rhubarb
50g caster sugar
200ml double cream
1/2 teaspoon rose water (I didn't have any so left it out)

1) Line a baking tray measuring approximately 35cm x 25cm x 2cm deep with non-stick parchment paper and lightly oil. Preheat the oven to 160c/fan140/gas mark 3.

2) To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then add half the caster sugar and continue to whisk for a couple of minutes. Mix the cornflour with the remaining sugar and add to the egg whites with the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Whisk until you have a firm, glossy consistency, a bit like shaving foam. This will take a good few minutes. Spoon and spread into the prepared baking tray. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.

3) In the meantime, cut the rhubarb into 3-4cm lengths and place in a saucepan with the sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning a couple of times with a metal spoon and trying not to let all of the pieces become too mushy.

4) Remove the cooked meringue from the oven and leave to cook in the tin for a few minutes, then carefully turn out on to a piece of baking paper heavily dusted with the icing sugar. Cool completely.

5) Whip the cream with the rose water (if using) until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the rhubarb and then spread over the meringue, leaving a border of about 2cm. Carefully and loosely roll the meringue lengthways into a fat cylinder shape. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Serves 6